22 May 2022


 It is a sound Catholic instinct to take seriously the formal doctrinal teaching of the Roman Pontiff, even when that teaching is not given ex cathedra and, accordingly, is not guaranteed to be infallible. I have been hauling Mansi up onto my computer screen so as to reread the formal letter whereby our former Holy Father confirmed the Council. It is good stuff: felicitously written with a great many happy turns of speech. His Holiness (or his Man of Letters) was one wotsit of a Latin stylist!

I am intrigued by the paragraph in which he (I am, of course, writing about Pope S Leo II) confirmed the Conciliar Anathema decreed by the Council (Constantinople III is, naturally, the Council about which I am writing) against the First Heretic Pope, Honorius I. In its Latin text, it explains the condemnation as being decreed because hanc apostolicam ecclesiam non apostolicae traditionis doctrina lustravit, sed profana proditione immaculatam fidem subvertere conatus est. [he did not sanctify this apostolic Church (Rome) with the teaching of apostolic Tradition, but by profane betrayal tried to subvert her spotless Faith.]

{Mansi reads 'persana', a mistake, surely, for 'profana' via a ms 'p'fana'. He gives a variant in the margin 'immaculatam maculari permisit', which, in accordance with the principle difficilior lectio potior, looks to me like an attempt slightly to soften the condemnation.}

The word lustravit intrigues me. It echoes the cultic terminology of pre-Christian Rome; the conventions and terminology of which remained in the consciousness of the Roman curia and the aristocratic Intelligentsia for long after the pagan ritual expression had disappeared. 

W Warde Fowler, Fellow of Lincoln College, described Lustratio thus: "to go round in procession, driving away or keeping out evil from farm, city, or army ..." In his lecture (Edinburgh, 1911) The Religious Experience of the Roman People he went into more detail: "to make a margin of separation between the sacred and the profane, within which the sacred processes of domestic life and husbandry might go forward, undisturbed by dangers--human, spiritual, or what not--coming from the profane world without. The boundary was marked out in some material way ... This boundary line was made sacred itself by the passage round it (lustratio) at some fixed time of the year, usually in May, when crops were ripening and especially liable to be attacked by hostile influences, of a procession occupied with sacrifice and prayer. The two main features of the rite, as formulated by Cato ... are--1, the procession of the victim, ox, sheep, and pig (suovetaurilia), the farmer's most valuable property; 2, the prayer to Mars pater, after libations to Janus and Jupiter, asking for his kindly protection of the whole familia of the farm, together with the crops of all kinds and the cattle within the boundary-line ... the farmer's object is ward off disease, calamity, dearth and infertility ... it is of a rite of this kind that Virgil must have been thinking when he wrote the beautiful pasage in the first Georgic ... terque novas circum felix eat hostia fruges, / omnis quam chorus et socii comitentur ovantes., etc.[ G I 345-6], ... as it was necessary to protect the homestead and its land by a sacred boundary, so the city had to be clearly marked off from all that was outside it."

Readers belonging to the Latin Rite will have made a jolly association here with the Litany processions which go round the boundaries of communities at this time of the year: last month on S Mark's Day and, on the first three ferias of this week, on the days before the Feast of the Ascension. They will even have noticed that, for Vergil, so for us, the event is a threefold one! It all makes you think, doesn't it! But more on this later in the week. For the moment, my point, of course, is to throw light on the Holy Father's sophisticated and forceful rhetorical use of this cultic framework distinguishing between the sacred within the boundary and the profane outside it. Honorius, the First Heretic Pope, whose duty it was to lustrare, to maintain the boundaries, to secure the wholesome unspotted life of the community within from the profane without, had scandalously and grossly neglected his sacred, cultic, obligations by promoting Heresy.

Incidentally, the Greek version of His Holiness's Letter does not attempt to put hellenophone readers straight on the mysteries of Italian pagan cultus. Instead, he uses the Greek concept of Pollution, miasma, which is remedied by the process of hagnisai. (For example, at HF 1324, Hercules' bloodied hands need to be cleansed (hagnisai) from miasma.) And that verb hagnisai appears very frequently in the LXX. You might enjoy Numbers Chapter 19.

Whether considered from the point of view of the Roman, Greek, or Hebrew religious tradition, the First Heretic Pope does not come out of things terribly well! 


Three times!


Zephyrinus said...

Dear Reverend Fr. Hunwicke.

Thank You for this excellent Article.

Full of most interesting and relevant reading.

Meanwhile, a Very Happy Chestnut Sunday (Rogation Sunday), today, and the same good wishes for a Happy and Blessed Rogation Monday, Rogation Tuesday, Rogation Wednesday. All this week, prior to, of course, Ascension Day on Thursday, 26 May.

Will we be able to join you Processing out in the fields, under a Canopy, holding The Monstrance containing The Holy Eucharist, and reciting The Litany of The Saints ?

Let us Pray that, soon, that scenario will be re-introduced into The Life of The Church in this Country.

Remnant Clergy said...

"but by profane betrayal tried to subvert her spotless Faith." Describes the apostate Bergoglio quite well, don't you think?

Matthew F Kluk said...

Very well indeed sir!

Albertus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albertus said...

Let us hope and pray that the next pope will be like unto Pope Saint Leo II, issuing a similar condemnation of his predecessor. A propos, in Italian holy water is called "acqua lustrale" from the Latin "aqua lustralis".

coradcorloquitur said...

What a splendidly correct (and courageously stated) description of the present Holy Father (apparently not very holy and certainly hardly a father to a significant portion of the flock entrusted to him by Christ): "the first Heretic Pope"!

Prayerful said...

This linking of a topical, ongoing matter of the lack of clear and good teaching from Rome to to boundary of the sacred and profane which St Leo II traced in his dogmatic letter to Constantine IV in the context of failure by an earlier Pope is fascinating, but it has to be pointed out that calling Pope Honorius I the 'First Heretic Pope' is to go against some considerable authority.

Pope St Leo II did not condemn Honorius as a heretic in his response to the decrees of the Sixth Oecumenical Council, which had done so. Calling Honorius the 'First Heretic Pope' is to disagree with what the Pope made clear in his dogmatic letter to Basileus Constantine IV, that his condemnation was of omission by Honorius, a failure to clearly uphold truth, in the face of official Monoletheism, two natures, one will in Christ, itself a bungled attempt to end division in the east among Christians that just resulted in another heresy. Fr Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma states there is no doubt that Honorius was orthodox, that the Sixth Council was wrong to judge the Pope a heretic, that his fault was 'negligence in suppression of the error.' This is not undermined when reading the letter between Honorius and Sergius, and even the ban on discussing the matter cannot rise to the level of endorsing the heresy of a single will. The Saint saw that and responded accordingly.

A book on heretic Popes would be devoid of concrete examples, there is no first, no second (John XXII was not condemned retrospectively and his Beatific Vision theory was only condemned by the next Pope), no third either. It is only with V2 and what followed that this becomes a pertinent question.

And the answer regarding Francis seems to be in the affirmative, and in a much clearer way than anything pre or post V2, but that is a matter for the future when Francis & co. are condemned.